J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Munroe Tavern Redux

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Munroe Tavern in Lexington, which has just formally reopened after an extensive refurbishment and reconception. It will continue to welcome visitors in the afternoons through October.

As described in this Boston Globe article, Col. Percy used this tavern as a hospital and headquarters when he took command of the British troops in the field on 19 Apr 1775.

The Lexington Historical Society has long owned that building, along with Buckman Tavern beside the town common and the Hancock-Clarke House a couple of blocks away. Those sites interpret the day largely from the American point of view.

The Munroe Tavern is now set up to show the British soldiers’ perspective on the battle. Its main display is a map and timeline of their march to Concord and back, rather than the Massachusetts militia alarm. Its video about the firing on Lexington common quotes British officers’ reports. Its first-floor artifacts are remnants of the royal troops’ activity in Lexington, as well as William Munroe’s tavern sign and furnishings typical of such an establishment.

Among those artifacts are the society’s “Pitcairn pistols,” on display once more. Their label reads in part:
The coat of arms and monogram engraved on the oval escutcheons in the pistol grips have recently been attributed to the Crosbie family of Wikloe County, Ireland.
That process began back here. We’re all still wondering about how those pistols went out on the march.

Another improvement in the Munroe Tavern experience: The first floor of the building, which includes the main display about the march, is wheelchair-accessible.

The ceremony opening the tavern was hampered for those of us back in the crowd by a remarkable sound system which actually made people sound quieter when they talked into the microphone than when they simply addressed the crowd, as reenactor Paul O’Shaughnessy showed. But there was no way to miss the community spirit on display.

TOMORROW: John Raymond, killed outside Munroe’s Tavern.

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